As the Church celebrates the victorious entrance of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we are forced to rethink how we think of kings. Unlike the secular kings of the world, our King is a different King. Unlike the modern examples of kings and other political leaders, our King is a different King. Our King leads His people to heaven, rather than dictating and oppressing them.
Today is a bittersweet day. On the one hand, the Church commemorates the fact that Christ died and was buried. One the other hand, we already know how the stories ends. On Holy and Great Saturday the Church commemorates the Descent into Hades by our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. While in Hades, He raised up Adam and Eve from death. It is a day to celebrate, but still a day of strict fasting.
On Holy and Great Friday the Church commemorates the Passion of Christ, the day on which He was hung on the cross, died and was buried. It is a day filled with emotion, and rich in tradition. Churches are filled with men, women and children preparing themselves and the Church for the Feast of Pascha. Whether it be oversized bunches of flowers, overflowing baskets of colored eggs, or the humming sound of the vacuum, today the Church is like a busy bee hive of activity. But today has got to be more than just activity.
On Holy and Great Thursday, the Church commemorates the establishment of the Holy Eucharist by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On the night before He was betrayed by Judas, Our Lord gathered His disciples together for a new sort of meal. It wasn’t just any meal, and it wasn’t just a standard Passover meal.
On Holy and Great Wednesday, the Church offers us an option beautifully laid out in the hymns of the day. Will we be Judas or the woman who anointed Jesus? Life is a daily choice between following our own selfish desires, or humble repentance.
The hymn below poetically expresses the dichotomy of this choice. While both were sinners, only one was saved. While both knew of Christ, only one knew Him. One had everything as a member of the inner circle, while the other lived an uphill challenge as a harlot. One was greedy, while the other gave up her entire life for Christ.
I have had many conversations with people about attending Church services. One of the most common struggles we all seem to have is the hypocrisy that seems to be evident throughout the Church on Sunday morning ESPECIALLY during Holy Week. We all claim to know the sins of others, so when we see them in Church reverently bowing and singing, we accuse them of hypocrisy. Problem is, things are never quite as them seem.
On the first day of Holy Week, the Church reminds us of the blessing promised by God when we spend time waiting for Him. “Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and blessed is the man whom He finds being vigilant.” Are you being vigilant?
Churches during Holy Week are more filled than at any other time during the year. We sit in dark Churches, singing and hearing hymns about the imminent coming of Christ and the blessing promised to those who are prepared to greet Him. But with blessings come responsibilities.
In ancient times, a king would ride his horse bravely lead his army into battle. Then, after defeating his enemy, the king would victoriously enter the capitol city to claim his new territory. The symbol of the king riding a horse both into battle and home to victory was recognizable to anyone who lived within the protection of a king. The entire city population would gather to cheer on their king.
All Christians recognize Christ as the Word of God. The Gospel of John begins with, “In the beginning was the Word,” speaking of the eternal existence of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and the we know the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. As we heard just over forty days ago, God spoke the entire creation into existence. The opening verses of Genesis continually reiterates, “And God said….and it was so.”
Our Great Lenten Journey ends today with a view toward death. Great Lent has been our opportunity to die to the world through our Lenten disciplines. For forty days (longer actually) we have fasted with a strictness that is unique to Great Lent. Even if you just started today, fasting is a form of death. But that death leads to heaven, not a tomb.